The helpful NHS app that helps mums with potty training

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This week, I’ve learned of another string the NHS has to its bow and it’s really rather bizarre.

We are knee deep in potty training and, on the one hand, it’s going really well, we’re not having any accidents and Arthur is asking for the potty when he needs it. On the other, his stubbornness knows no bounds and we’ve learnt he can hold off on a ‘number two’ for a good week and a half.

HELPFUL: Thumbs up for the NHS app after recommendations from Facebook group The Motherload.

HELPFUL: Thumbs up for the NHS app after recommendations from Facebook group The Motherload.

We’ve tried everything. Lots of fruit and veg, praise, rewards, sticker charts, reverting back to nappies (he refuses to wear them at all), I even offered to buy him a present every time he went but even that didn’t cut it. He simply doesn’t want to do one and so just yells “NOOOOOOOO” at the top of his voice whenever it’s brought up. And then he runs off. Forcing him to sit on the potty just causes crying and upset. It’s so hard to know what to do.

I resorted to asking advice from a mum-group this week. My go to is ‘The Motherload’ on Facebook. It’s made up on tens of thousands of mums across the country and beyond and the rule is that no one can be judgemental so it’s a nice safe space to ask all sorts of things. There, hundreds of mums offered all sorts of advice but the comment that came up most often was: “try Poo goes home to Pooland”. It turns out it’s a free app made by the NHS.

It was created by a mother of three and consultant clinical psychologist and developed by the Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust – so it’s got a fair bit of clout behind it. It looks like a simple story book but there’s a lot of thought that’s gone into it and it aims to help kids become less anxious when toileting. The mums in the Motherload raved about it so it’s clearly had some success. It turns out its also quite hilarious.

In a nutshell, it tells the story of ‘Poo’ who wants to go and see his friends and family in ‘Pooland’ and about what a little boy called Ollie does to help him get there. It’s got sound effects, illustrations and is read aloud by a softly spoken Geordie woman who you’d absolutely want in your team if there were ever a crisis – she sounds so calming!

We started reading it with our toddler: “Poo wants to go home to Pooland” she said. “In Pooland, Poo can tell Poo jokes and play poo games” she continued. Well Arthur just loved this. Cue many questions like “are there kites in Pooland?” “Does Poo go to birthday parties?” “Can poo ride a bike?”. He was well and truly hooked. I answered all the questions as a good parent should (yes, yes, and yes – he has a Raleigh Chopper), and it seemed to be working.

The last time I’d read anything like this was probably in a joke book when I was seven, when anything to do with toileting habits was side splitting. It felt a bit weird to be having these conversations and making up a backstory but I felt it would be worth it if Arthur became more comfortable. After all, I was a mature 35 year old, I could handle it. Turns out I could only handle it to a point.

It was so hard not to laugh. So, so hard. But I suppressed the giggle and all was well with the world. The book certainly seems to have helped – we’re not out of the woods but we’re now at every three days which is something. What isn’t so good is that Arthur is now obsessed with the app. No longer does he want me to read ‘The Hungry Caterpillar’ at night, he doesn’t even want to watch Paw Patrol on the telly. He just wants ‘Poo goes home to Pooland’.

This wouldn’t be so bad if this was only in the comfort of our own home but it’s not. I can only apologise to everyone else on the number 2 bus to Roundhay on Saturday who were forced to listen to “Sometimes Poo burps to let Ollie know when he is ready to go home, this can be smelly”. I’m not sure who was more embarrassed.